A Profile of Legal Aid Services in Family Law Matters in Canada

3. Comparisons of family law legal aid services in Canada (continued)

3. Comparisons of family law legal aid services in Canada (continued)

3.2 Costs of family law legal aid services

3.2.1 Total expenditures for family law legal aid services

A comparison of the costs of family law legal aid services in Canada is presented in Table 5. Where data are available, the costs of family law legal aid services are presented as a proportion of the jurisdiction’s total legal aid expenditures. Nova Scotia spends approximately two fifths of its total legal aid budget on family law services, Saskatchewan spends almost one third of its legal aid budget on civil legal aid, and Prince Edward Island spends 29 percent of its total legal aid budget on family law matters. The jurisdictions that spend the smallest proportion of their budgets on family law legal aid, of the jurisdictions with these data, are Alberta and Manitoba, at 23 percent.

Per capita costs are also presented to give an indication of family legal aid costs relative to total population size. For the jurisdictions for which this information is available, Prince Edward Island spends the least amount on family legal aid services, at $1.47 per person, and the Northwest Territories spends the most, at $12.82 per person. The Yukon ($7.60), British Columbia ($5.82), and Nova Scotia ($4.96) also have relatively high per capita costs.

3.2.2 Cost/case for family law legal aid services

The average cost/case for family law legal aid services in Canada is also contained in Table 5. While these data need to be interpreted with caution (see Section 1.4 Limitations), it is evident that the costs of delivering family law legal aid vary widely across Canada. For provinces/territories for which we have information, costs range from $405 per case in New Brunswick to over $1,500 per case in Ontario and British Columbia.

The differences in cost/case do not seem to be related to whether the jurisdiction uses primarily a staff or judicare delivery model. Three provinces were able to provide additional data by delivery mode. In New Brunswick in 2000/01, cases completed by staff lawyers cost an average of $113, while cases completed by private lawyers averaged $177 per case. Similarly, in Manitoba, the cost/case for private lawyers in 2000/01 was $585, compared to $494 for staff lawyers. Conversely, in Nova Scotia in 1999/2000, cases completed by private lawyers had the lowest cost/case at $591, compared to $893 for cases completed by staff lawyers, and $1,559 for cases completed by Dalhousie Legal Aid.

3.3 Trends in volumes and expenditures of family law legal aid services

3.3.1 Trends in volume of family law legal aid services

Table 6 presents data on the number of approved family law legal aid applications in Canada over five years and the percentage change from year to year. There is a general downward trend in the number of approved applications for Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan, and a general upward trend for Ontario, Alberta, Prince Edward Island, and the Yukon. New Brunswick experienced an increase in the number of approved applications from 1997/98 to 1999/2000, but then saw a sharp decline to close to 1997/98 numbers. In Manitoba, the number of approved applications decreased from 1996/97 to 1997/98, increased to 1999/2000, and then decreased in 2000/01. Approved applications in British Columbia dropped from 1996/97 to 1998/99, and then increased to 2000/01. In Québec, it is interesting that the trends in volume for family law cases have shown decreases, while the volume of child protection cases has increased.

It is important to note that, even though the number of approved applications may be decreasing, this does not mean that there is a reduced need for family law legal aid services. Rather, it is likely that the number of approved applications is related to trends in expenditures.

3.3.2 Trends in expenditures for family law legal aid services

Trends in expenditures for family law legal aid services in Canada and the percentage change from year to year are presented in
Table 7. Nova Scotia, Québec, and British Columbia are the only jurisdictions for which data are available that show a downward trend in expenditures, and Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan are the only jurisdictions that show an upward trend in expenditures. British Columbia, the Yukon, and New Brunswick all experienced decreased expenditures from 1998/99 to 1999/2000, followed by increased expenditures in 2000/01. The trends in expenditures for Nova Scotia, Québec, Manitoba, British Columbia, the Northwest Territories and the Yukon mirror the trends in volume of approved family law legal aid applications (see Table 6). However, the trends for New Brunswick do not, particularly for 2001/2002, when a decreased caseload is associated with higher expenditures.

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